Gladius, currently being tested by troops preparing for deployment to Afghanistan in June, is designed to bring German infantry into the network-centric age. (Ralph Zwilling)
LONDON — German infantry have started training on the new “future soldier system” that aims to integrate multiple operational and survival functions into an individual soldier’s kit.
Known collectively (in English) as Future Soldier – Expanded System, the core system includes a computer, headset, GPS, inertial navigation system, digital compass, helmet display and night vision goggles. An alternate name is Gladius, the Latin word for “sword.”
Gladius can be linked to several sets of ancillary equipment, including modular combat clothing, incorporating ballistic protection and a harness system; reconnaissance equipment such as a spotting scope or thermal imager; weapons; and accessories such as rifle scopes.
Troops preparing to deploy to Afghanistan in June are now training with the initial batch of equipment.
Made by Rheinmetall, the system was designed to enable German troops to participate fully in network-centric operations for the first time.
This month, Rheinmetall formally handed over the first batch of 30 sets of equipment, enough for 300 troops, to German Army chief of staff Lt. Gen. Bruno Kasdorf and Harald Stein, president of the Federal Office of Bundeswehr Equipment, Information Technology and In-Service Support.
At the handover ceremony, Rheinmetall executive board member Bodo Garbe said that Gladius was the first successful implementation of an entirely new design of a soldier system to reach German troops.
“German infantrymen can now play an active role in network-enabled warfare,” Garbe said. “The availability and flow of information on the battlefield are at least as important as firepower, protection and mobility.”
Garbe also noted that Gladius “automatically furnishes each soldier with this information in near real time.” Rheinmetall claims that the advanced system should improve overall operational effectiveness in German infantry uniforms and enhance survivability of soldiers.
Gladius is intended to bring the standard 10-man infantry section and its accompanying vehicle into the network-enabled operational loop. This network, consisting of reconnaissance, command and control components, and weapons, is designed to enable a rapid exchange of information plus shared situational awareness while on operations.
An individual soldier receives data concerning the tactical situation, position of friendly forces, the mission, and system status.
In January, the Bundeswehr ordered a second batch of Gladius kit, sufficient for 60 infantry sections, or 600 men, at a cost of 84 million euros ($109 million).
Half will be delivered in mid-2013 and half at the end of the year, allowing enough time for the next two German units due to deploy to Afghanistan to complete the necessary familiarization and training on the new equipment.
The company says that its holistic design approach takes account of the complex operational requirements placed on modern soldier systems.
With infantry worldwide facing escalating personal loads, Rheinmetall says it has put particular emphasis on weight reduction, miniaturization and improved integration of individual components.
The system’s battle dress is designed to be stealthy in both the visual and infrared spectrums, function well in extreme climates, and is flame-retardant.